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Richard North Patterson Education. (2011) Richard North Patterson ('The Devil's Light.')

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Israel 19, U.s. 15, America 8, Cia 7, Pakistan 7, Brooke Chandler 5, Hollywood 5, Afghanistan 5, Us 5, Washington 5, Nixon 4, Hezbollah 4, Lebanon 4, Ted Kennedy 3, Patterson 3, Osama Bin 3, United States 3, Obama 3, Egypt 3, Fadlallah 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Richard North Patterson  Education.  (2011)  
   Richard North Patterson ('The Devil's Light.')  

    July 10, 2011
    9:30 - 10:44am EDT  

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>> universally we are all just enough. that's what that means. we are all universally just enough. we are born with everything that we need to wake up and to become conscious. that is just enough. >> you can watch this and other programs on line at booktv.or booktv.org. >> richard north patterson's newest novel, "the devil's light" discusses the threat of a nuclear attack on his real by tears and the possibly of another 9/11 type attack in u.s. he talks about these topics at an event hosted by the commonwealth club in san francisco. this is just over an hour. >> this program is presented in partnership with the library learning centers glenn seaborg learning consortium and is part of the commonwealth club's good lived series underwritten by the bernard foundation. you can find a club on the internet at commonwealth club.org. i am jonathan, journalist and
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author of all america and i will be your moderator for tonight's program. is my pleasure to introduce our very special guest richard north patterson, the author of 19 acclaimed novels including turn 13. mr. patterson has written a new work, "the devil's light" which explores the idea of a nuclear threat from al qaeda. what happens when al qaeda steals obama tries to detonate it on the 10th anniversary of 9/11? esther patterson answers that in a thrill that features a lineup of interesting characters, including a u.s. intelligence agent named brooke chanda who may or may not save the day. mr. patterson was a lawyer before becoming a writer concert at one point as assistant attorney general for the state of ohio. he also worked as a lawyer for the securities and exchange commission that he has been chairman of the organization common cause and has written for such publications as the times of london and the "washington post." many of his works have been
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international sellers, and i daresay that "the devil's light" will join that list. is welcome richard north patterson. [applause] >> it's great to see you and to have read your book, "the devil's light" doesn't refer to osama bin laden's flashlight but to the light emitted from a nuclear weapon. and this is a very serious subject, and people who know your career will not be surprised that you have tackled this subject. your other books, for example, eclipse was a human rights, africa and the geopolitics loyal and her previous books, exile and before that was about the israeli-palestinian conflict. you are known for attacking serious issues and presenting them in a thriller format. and this novel is thrilling, but you are upset you didn't write this per se, although it is to
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entertain people, it's also to inform them and, in fact, he took two years to research this book. you also went to the middle east, and one of your main concerns is to let people know about the threat of al qaeda. can you talk about that? >> yeah, people worry about the iranian's or the north koreans but the iranians, for example, have a return address. if they were to start a nuclear exchange with israel could fire him quite easily. the real threat is seems to me is non-state actors, people you can't find, people of an apocalyptic view of the world, people like al qaeda are dedicated to jihad. the question becomes at that point how might they acquire nuclear weapon. and this is what keeps her national security and counterterrorism people up nights. you have to look at virtually what to do if they try a variety of ways. osama bin laden met with pakistani scientist and nuclear engineers shortly before 9/11.
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he has tried to get stolen so their weapons. yesterday highly enriched uranium in south africa. that pakistan has always been his focus, and there's a reason it's the most dangerous place on earth. it's the fifth largest nuclear power. up to 100 nuclear weapons. it's estimated they have more terrorist groups for square-mile and in a place you can find in that region. as we might suspect from the fact that bin laden had the planes fly for years, their security service, the isi has close ties to former current jihadists. they help to find and the taliban to fight the russians. back in afghanistan. they fought and started the people he did the mumbai attacks in india. as a counterweight to india
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military power. all those groups have operational connections to each other now. the experts believe that they would be, and are inclined to plan operations against the west, both at home and abroad. so the question becomes then how vulnerable is the pakistani arsenal? how might someone need a nuclear bomb? there's several ways. you could have a rogue officer come you have a clandestine sale of materials which a.q. khan, the father of the nuclear program of pakistan before a number of years. you have a rogue officer taking over nuclear installation, or you can have my scenario where a bomb in transit from its secure facility the front lines in a nuclear, storm because that's where it's most one of the. you're the combination of weapons, a country which is
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hostile, a security service which has ties to jihadists. jihadists have been indulged on the establishment military and security, and you have something that is really a worth a nuclear terrorism i nuclear terrorism i would suggest one the great national security fears that we have. >> and in your book, "the devil's light," you have osama bin laden is a character in the book. and at one point without giving too much away, he issues a pronouncement that potentially sensitive united states will bomb your country with his stolen weapon. there's a lot more to that, and a lot more, but can you talk about putting osama bin laden in the book, and what it was important to do that? >> first of all, it's really sad when one of your characters dies and all of america applauds. [laughter] imagine my surprise. [laughter]
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but, as i said i have seen bin laden in 202010 planning this nuclear operation, with a fictional operative. it was important i thought to have bin laden involved in this plot because he would be. he was still as we know now and operational control for an operational touch point, other al qaeda folks around the world. and one of his geniuses, if you will, there were roughly 60 countries of al qaeda cells which he has built up. and he was organizationally brilliant that way. he was also, if you are of that peculiar mindset, and inspiring figure, so in any event, he is the one who's been obsessed with nuclear weapons, he is the one it issued against the west calling for the use of nuclear weapons. he has pledged the death of 4 million americans.
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how do you do that? certainly not one at a time. it seems to me that he was essential to the plot and essential to the story picks of the question is how do you detect somebody who is very well known, and yet is not well known. and you of course can't interview. and what i did do was i talked to peter bergen was the last western journalist to meet with bin laden, talked to numerous people and try to get a good sense of what we like to actually be in his presence. those scenes are as real as i could make them. the other point i would make briefly is that everyone i talk to have done studies of al qaeda principles, argue, a, they are quite well educated for the most part, and they are blind.
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not insane at all. they are not psychotic. they make -- of perfectly rational people pursuing and utterly horrible and irrational goal. if they were barking mad, it would be easier to do but the fact is they are not. >> they are not, and the characters in your book, the cia operatives, brooke chandler, they are aware that they are not irrational people. and your book innocent sets of polar opposites in terms of where they live and their philosophies but not in terms of their maniacal, say, interest. and for example, chana, the cia operative, i don't know exactly that might be modeled after, any number of people, but he tries to go after or find a nuclear weapon, and they are may not be successful as we don't want to give away the ending. but talk about how much the
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real-life of the cia operatives are in the book, and whether that played a part of with you to kind of hollywood eyes it spent if i had to hollywood eyes it i wouldn't do. i just think the stuff is too important to be fooling around with things that way. so now, i interviewed, cia undercover agent, past and present to get a sense of their lives and how they think and what they would do. i had hours and hours and hours and hours, several meetings with key people who were remarkably helpful. a former cia agent, field agent who was portrayed by george clooney and a movie, kind of fictionalized version of all a slice of bob's life. and remarkably howard hunt -- or herald hunt. sorry, howard hunt. herald hunt was the guy in the opening red wig and watergate. but howard is the most
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decorative man in the history of the cia. he was a legendary field officer. he was stationed in iran went home and he came in. he was station chief in moscow, station chief in berlin. he ran the cia. war against the russians in afghanistan. he was the one who is in charge of spot any ours. at his most markle stories is that when he was in iran when the ayatollah khamenei took over, the revolutionary guard founded shortly after is paying off a double agent who is in the shah's secret police, and they're well on their way when howard pulled out a gun and kill them both. he made his way back to the embassy. he didn't complain about his injuries because he wanted to stay on the job. eventually got out. when he got back to america, a doctor looked at him and said the only time i've seen into the issues national interest this bad was with head-on car
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injuries and those guys are dead. he lives now in an incredible amount of pain. he is a very, very brave men. but bob and howard really timeless in helping, you know, get things right. >> among the people you credit in the book as well, leon panetta, cia director of course. former defense secretary -- >> one of my best friends actually. >> if you were to read the list before you read the book, you would think that you were very well-connected, shall we say? and might even have, you know, -- >> some people think i can fix a parking ticket at least. [laughter] >> well, you also interviewed for this book, among the people you interviewed was mohammad, often described as the spiritual head of hezbollah. and so you traveled pashtun you just weren't -- this is not armchair literature.
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you traveled in lebanon and those with an enough example you into a very well-known known palestinian refugee camp about an hour or so south of beirut. >> i went there, both scary places. you can't imagine conditions under which these palestinians live in lebanon are not allowed to vote, not allowed to hold jobs in most areas of work or profession. that in itself is remarkable for lala was when the spiritual heads was really an incredibly interesting man. i felt initiative speak to those folks on the sort of advanced line. i see the government was arranging for me because we discussed the scum he was on the staff, the terrorist list of the state department. but nontheless, conversations with hamas with hezbollah, and others was very useful to try to
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create a rounded picture of what would be an incredibly complex situation if you're hunting for a bomb. >> and i'm wondering if any of the interviews you did with people who most americans, they may not even know the names, certainly are aware of the dangers of this, but in any of these interviews change your personal assessment of the middle east and caused you to say wait a minute, maybe u.s. policy is x. y. or z.? >> as a complicated question and you don't believe obviously, when you're talking to these folks were any folks, everything that you hear from them. i had an interesting conversation with fadlallah about the bombing of the marine corps barracks in 82, and the bombing of the american embassy in beirut. and you know, he was alleged to have blessed those before the fact. and he said, you know,
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essentially without saying much about that, you know, you were on our soil, we don't come to your soil. i condemn al qaeda for 9/11. these were ask of resistance, you know, not acts of terror. and that's a point of view. and it is actually useful to you that point of view when you're trying to figure out how these folks think. so, you know, you hear lots of -- i remember meeting with our guide to his head of the brigade in the palestinian refugee camp in the west bank. he has eyes like direction because the israeli army is looking to kill them. pc with an m-16 on his lap and when a conversation about how he got into this situation. i don't know, you could do this
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work in a complicated way users without doing some of that stuff. >> right. i know your books have been, as i said, they are international bestsellers. a lot of people read them including well-known people, john mccain is one of the people who loves your work. and york has been translated into many languages. if you were in the '80s whether for example, fadlallah said i love blah, blah, blah, and. or with a innocent a little bit weary of how this novel is come in? >> it is funny. you sometimes have to jump through a few hoops, but you end -- when i was talking to the palestinians for ask.com and let us talking to the ayatollah fadlallah, one thing you are aware of is they don't feel that their point of view is very well circulated in the western press. so to the extent that you show up and you can write, and some
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days something to say we'll get into print, there actually working to talk to you and other people might because they have a feeling that they are not understood, that they are basically satirized and cast as terrorist, sort of one size fits all the way. and so, actually there are quite fine on talking to for the most part. there is a price was picture of me giving him a copy of exile. and a copy of -- but i don't think he was a fan before i showed up, i will say that. >> okay. let me turn to someone else who might or may not be a fan of yours. on 9/11 you're actually in washington, d.c., and the night before you interviewed ted kennedy for a book to anyone it if you can describe first of all that interview with ted kennedy, but also, you know, within hours
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you had seen 9/11 and wanted to instill in you. >> it was remarkable because i was going about my business. i was interviewing ted kennedy for a book on presidential politics and the gun law. and he became a dear friend, and he was wonderful, warm, generous man. he had people working to help me and we had a two-hour meeting. he took his time. and it was really quite wonderful. i always so enjoy them doing something like this or just in a social situation. but i've personally content with this days were. i was feeling great. i would go home and the next morning i am sitting in front of, i'm sitting in my bed dictating my notes from a conversation with ted and the tv is sort in the back of the outlook up and there's a plane hitting the world trade center, you know, where i taken my
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daughter for dinner not all that long before. and i just couldn't make sense of it. like a lot of americans, you know, i'm thinking how in the world does an airline pilot fly into, you know, a plane. this makes no sense to me at all. and you think in the back of something is terribly wrong. and then, of course, the second flight. washington was a ghost town. i couldn't get out. i was struck because the world really have changed and i was not in new york which was arranged but they hit the pentagon. and that sort had a profound effect. evidently stopped in washington. but the remarkable story, getting back to ted for a moment, at the end of our meeting he said to me, everyone knows how i feel about guns, which is poignant. he said but you really should talk to john edwards because he has to deal with a different part of country. i said i thought about that but i don't want -- he said don't
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worry, i will take care of it. so 9/11 comes along and okay, the time in the u.s. senate is over with, and i'm just sort of stuck here. that was a tuesday morning was 9/11. thursday morning i am in my hotel. the phone rings and it's john edwards. he says i hear you're a friend of teddy's. teddy once they to talk to you. i always try to do what he wants to do, so what do you want to know? [laughter] i thought it was remarkable of ted to the middle of in national emergency and a real crisis that he had remembered that he had made this promise to me and would follow through. to be his friend was to experience many, many acts of generosity like that. >> that's a great story. as one reachable, "the devil's light" 9/11 of course the central part of the book.
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in the event one week about the towers going down and a very minor character in the book parishes that day. and it becomes a driving force for the characters, you know, next events in their lives. they do certain things related to 9/11. when 9/11 happened did you know right away, i want to write about this or did you innocents want to distance yourself? >> it's a shocking event and you wondered what had happened and how america should react to such a thing. and then, of course, we got involved in the iraq war in particular, no question about whether that was an appropriate response to the terrorist threat, or something else altogether. when i thought about 9/11, and i thought about the generation of americans who were changed by
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that, i learned sometimes listed been a great influx of young people wanted to go and ufc 98 after 9/11 because this very thing. and my character brooke chandler is one of them. there's a feeling generally that one of the after effects of 9/11 was an infusion of talent into the agency, which perhaps otherwise wouldn't have been the. eventually it all came together for me, the worry about nuclear terrorism, 9/11, al qaeda. my interest in intelligence world and hence "the devil's light" spent a reminder you listen to the commonwealth club of california greater program. we are talking with best selling author richard north patterson about his book, "the devil's light." let's take a question from the audience, but before we do that, i just want to say in your book, "the devil's light," the characters say a lot of things that i don't think people, politicians and others could ordinarily say for public consumption. one of them, for example, you
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have people, said a intelligence saying al qaeda, they are a good organization, tactic wise. they are full of brilliant people. one of them, i forget the name, one of them calls osama bin laden a genius. one question from the audience, if al qaeda is so smart, how was it that were able to send in a few navy seals and take out the most famous leader? >> well, i mean, it is a problem trying to hide, even in pakistan. but on the other hand, look at where we are between 2001-2011, 10 years after the fact. we have al qaeda franchises, if you will, in over 60 countries. we have al qaeda on the arabian peninsula being a real menace in lebanon. we have a continuing fear of al qaeda striking. bin laden may be dead, but think
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of the talent that it took to find and build up from nothing, a bunch of different people, a widespread clandestine network, over 60 countries, with the cia and the mossad and the intelligence outfits of various western countries worrying about you. you know, he certainly is overmatched, but he was no fool. indeed, one of the reasons that i think that al qaeda has been so intent on acquiring nuclear materials is the are looking for an equalizer. they are looking for a game changer. because all they can do is try to pursue the old active of asymmetric warfare. that's what such a worry. the death of bin laden effects,
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i don't know. i have bin laden's operatives saying to them, you know, the years since 9/11 have not been kind to us in many ways. and you do sense that to some extent, depending on what happened in movies, the world is moving on, the forward movements in egypt and tunisia, for example, and he knows how and where they will end. certainly has a more healthful alternative and jihad, and the fantasy of an islamic -- so i suppose the ultimate success of bin laden's on how much hatred there is in the world at which hatred there is in the middle east. that has to do with lots of things, which govern the lives and folks who live there. >> speaking to which, to questions from the audience related to israel. one of them relates to israel influence on u.s. policy. one of the main characters in
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your book, is israeli, a woman who actually is involved with brooke chandler. >> those were the fun seems that i just want to point out they are there. [laughter] this is not all grim. >> in fact, it gets into quite a few scenes with them, but then it also, like real-life goes over politics. they talk about different things, and, but the question from the audience is, one of the questions is how influential israel is to u.s. foreign policy, and in terms of this book that you have written, can you talk about that? you to export the issue in the book. >> well, in terms of the proposition place on the table by this book preventing nuclear terrorism, they're both concerned about and they both ought to be with the destruction of tel aviv, for example, essentially do the destruction of israel given its geography
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and its infrastructure and all the rest. answer and the distortion of new york or washington would alter our view, our democracy, our commitment to civil liberties and all the rest. we both have a profound concern with nuclear terrorism. but they are concerned about them. we are concerned about us. that's the first proposition. there is a history of distrust between the cia and the mossad, getting only half of the u.s. that they sometimes try to many feeling us to -- would to be a shocking thing for the cia intelligence the to do. [laughter] so, we do have a cooperation but with the mossad but it is also edgy. the broader question of the israeli u.s. connection of foreign policy is a very tricky one. when you address this kind of thing, as i have, you have to be
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really, really careful because you're going to make somebody mad. but there certainly has been an effort on behalf of support of israel here in the united states to make, and find a discussion of the u.s. national interest, vis-à-vis israel, on very narrow bounds because, you know, they are supporter of israel, care and simple, and that's fine. i tried to distinguish when i talk about this between our profound commitment to israel's right to exist, you know, and to never forget what happened, which is i think aim moral commitment of the highest order. and the indulgence of the a particular policy, any particular israeli government, vis-à-vis our national interest. i sort of think we have a deep moral interest in israel. i do not always think that the policies of benjamin netanyahu,
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for example, are either in the national interest of israel or in the national interest of the united states. the degree to which build one is able to say that or feels able to say that in view of both domestic u.s. politics is related. so i will talk to people in our national security community who will say these things to me candidly, but they are very, very reluctant to say things public. so until we have a healthy dialogue about what steps with the palestinians, as? one, are really in the long-term security interests of israel and the u.s., and have an open discussion of it, that's going to be a problem area. in u.s. foreign policy. to me what israel really needs, all you need to do is look at the map, is guaranteed for security among other things. they don't just need peace. they need security. and if you look at what is discussed for the parameters of peace between israel and the
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palestinians, it involves a nader or international guarantee, including american troops, to guarantee their borders which i think would be very helpful. netanyahu says that isn't enough. i want my troops is gauged around the border. forget it, that's a nonstarter but what is also employed is international troops including u.n. troops can't be trusted to protect israel. and at some point you have to worry that he is catering to a coalition of folks who are among the very religious, who believe that israel is not just the territory that they have now, but the west bank, this is biblical, this is the logical, and what everyone fix of theology, that's not a basis for foreign policy. ..
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>> when the, you know, muslim world has talked about. one of them, for example, is the sunni/shia divide. but just how, how deeply felt that is to the point where there's, you know, of course, blood, animosity in a lot of ways. for example, al-zarqawi who was killed, this jordanian terrorist who was killed in iraq several years ago, i was reading his book, and he professed more hatred for shia than for jews, you know? and the characters if your book talk about this -- in your book talk about this. but can you talk about that? >> yeah. i mean, it really is remarkable for zarqawi to say what he said,
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he is going some. because he didn't like jews much either. [laughter] but, you know, he was about the business of killing shia in iraq. i mean, that was one of his priorities. and, indeed, there's a distinct antagonism between al-qaeda in the iranian regime and hezbollah because they are primarily shia and not sunni. and that is deeply felt, and i sort of go into the genesis of it. but i can't begin to explain why it is that important, you know, some 1400 years later. i only know -- or 1500 years later. i only know that it is. um, so one of the strains that runs through my book is the calculation that if al-qaeda on bin laden's part, if al-qaeda does something which causes a military reprisal, an
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indices criminate military reprisal by the united states or israel, it's likely to fall on shia. so for them it's a win/win situation. you know, they strike a blow against the west, and the west strikes a blow against iran, and all the better for them. and that really is intensely felt. >> i want to get into a little bit into your personal life. not too perm, but a little bit personal. and that is the fact that you were a lawyer, you were trained to be a lawyer. and around age 29 you decided to write a novel. um, and so at that point you hadn't really written, you know, publicly anyway a novel. and lo and behold, you know, years later, you know, you're one of the world's best-selling novelists. your books are described as international best sellers, certainly "the new york times" has seen many of your books. can you talk about what prompted
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you to want to write fiction after having worked as a very successful lawyer for many years? and this is the kind of tail end of that, are you happy being a novelist and having given up those law years? >> oh, i'm sick. i'm going back. [laughter] you know, there are people who suggest unkindly that the march from lawyer to fiction writer is an extremely short one. [laughter] you know, i enjoyed my legal career a great deal, and i learned a lot from it that was very useful as a lawyer. i learned interviewing skills, i learned more about linear thinking which is plotting. i learned how to take a complex set of messy facts and make them coherent a narrative which might be persuasive to a judge or jury. i learned a lot about human psychology, and your clients
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will tell you the damnedest things. and so, and i also learned to write. i mean, there's a theory that, you know, legal writing is this nonsense with all sorts of dependent clauses that'll put you to sleep because you can't read it. but the truth is as a lawyer you know you're writing for america's most tired, cynical audience, america's judges and their law clerks. and you want to make it concise and persuasive, and you want to grab them with the nub of your presentation on page 1. so it's all good. the difference is that, i mean, lawyer is kind of an inbox kind of job. you hear somebody's problem, and then you try to go about the interesting business of fixing it. but as a writer you have self-assigned work. you get to decide what to care about. you get to decide how to spend your time. and the most wonderful thing
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about the writing career for me is that interests have merged with my work. i've learned more from it, i've met great people from it, made good friends because of it. my life is entirely different because i was a writer and because i chose this maybe curious path of reaching out for different subjects rather than trying to sort of, you know, replow familiar ground because it's commercially safe. so it's been, um, a great career for me. >> and one that has put you in the spotlight in a lot of ways. i know some of your books have been optioned for television. but, and this book -- >> i have all the horror stories. [laughter] >> right. and i think a lot of people here and listening and watching probably know or are familiar with those horror stories. but this book, you know, has a
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lot of basis for a screenplay, certainly. i mean, have you gotten offers already for this -- >> well, i mean, i joke i've had movie deals -- >> right. >> a lot more movie deals than movies. [laughter] which is difficult. i say that movie deals are like sperm; many are called, but few are chosen. [laughter] but, yeah, i mean, i expect i may get something. but, you know, hollywood's a funny place, you know? you know, a few years ago syriana didn't do all that well, and the kingdom with whoever it was department do all that -- didn't do all that well. hollywood is filled with people who are profound analysts of the marketplace. so they say, well, there are arabs in it, and arabs don't work. i mean, i'm serious. you hear that. sorry. if i'd known, i would have put, like, italians in the middle east. [laughter] but maybe they'll do it for me. [laughter]
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you know, i do have a movie deal with participant pictures which is a very good studio which tries to do, you know, serious film making. so, you know, there's a thought. but, i mean, the thing is people always ask me, well, has your book been turned into a movie as if this book is a thing, but a movie's really what you're after. and i've never cared really because the stuff they do is frequently awful. i'd be happy to add the check to my kids' tuition fund, but, you know, the book is just what i made. i'm not constrained by budget, i'm not -- i don't have to ask anybody what to do in the book. i don't have, you know, a studio head saying, jeez, shouldn't your male character be a female and so on and so forth, you know, or vice versa. so i'm, if it happens, it's like
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being hit by a moon rock. and if it doesn't, it's fine. >> well, speaking of female characters, brooke chandler's israeli girlfriend in this book does resort to violence, i think i can say that without giving too much away. >> yep. >> and i can tell from the writing she's attractive, so, you know, that has everything going right there for a hollywood -- >> well -- >> angelina jolie maybe? >> actually, that scene was inspired by a dinner party where we had a husband and wife over who had been field agents, and she was talking about how it's possible to kill somebody with a number 2 pencil, and i sort of remembered that. [laughter] i also remembered never to sit next to her. [laughter] um, but, yeah. i mean, i am a romantic, i suppose. and i've never objected to relationships in real life or in books. and i do, in addition to dealing
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with whatever subject i'm dealing with, i really do like to give people a good story, and i also like to create characters who are complicated, dimensional and in whom you have a real interest. you may not like all of them, but you want to read about them. so all that's very important to me. you know, otherwise i'm just writing a tome on nuclear terrorism, and that's not my intention. >> with your indulgence, then, let me read what you wrote about osama bin laden in the book. this is page 66 for those of you with a copy of the book. you say, in the flesh, the man radiated purpose, yet he retained the aura of a poet. with his gaze came an air of calm and stillness. and let me flash forward to the character, the militant in the book who at one point writes this, and this is poetry. the devil's light flashes golden
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in the black sky of doom clothe inside a shroud of ashes. our foe vanishes into the past. so there's some, you know, these are two passages that describe men who are prone to violence, of course, but yet have a poetic side to them. can you just -- >> yeah. that was a big part of bin laden's persona. he wrote poetry. and he is, he was always described in personal dealings with him as, you know, rather gentle and con said rate -- considerate, far from a screamer. zawahiri, i gather, is not a pleasant person to be around at all. much more rigid, much more didactic, mind you, we're talking about opposing characters who planned 9/11, so i don't want to push that one too far. but i think in portraying bin
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laden it was important to get him right and see him as his act colite who was going to put his life on the line for this plot would see him, as an inspirational figure. that only makes sense. because you're not seeing him when you're the reader. you're not seeing him through the americans' point of view, you're seeing him from the point of view from someone who's actually been inspired by him, and you want to understand how that could possibly be. >> and one of the things your characters from the west or the middle east have in common is that they're having to use different identities. brooke chandler, you know -- >> yeah. >> -- has to change his name. anita also has her name changed, and the characters, the militants are also having to pose as different people. >> right. >> so in a sense there are these connections whether people realize it or not, there are these connections. they're almost from the same
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family but different -- >> there are certain psychological similarities between, you know, people on either side of the terror imdivide the -- terrorism divide if you're working under cover. the ability to lie and assimilate a whole different identity and be fine with that and to bring it off is not given to most of us. i dare say there's probably not a single person in this audience who could do it. i know i certainly couldn't. so, you know, psychologically there are certain similarities including an incredible commitment to an extremely inconvenient life. because to go undercover is to give up a lot. and i have brook early on talking about the cost of that life which he's painfully aware. i was talking to a guy who was undercover who never did tell me his last name because that was, that was not for me to know. but, you know, he's saying, you
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know, and i have brook say this more or less: i don't mind lying to foreigners, i mean, that's what they pay me for. but it is wearing when i lie to the guy in the next apartment or the woman i've just met or people who have known me for years. he says, you know, that's what really gets you down. and in the case of somebody like zarqawi, you've given up a big chunk of your life. >> now, your book came out, i guess, two days, two or three days after the announcement that osama bin laden had been killed. >> yeah. >> at that point there had been no images shown of bin laden, but subsequently we've seen images of him, and they show a person who -- to use a boxing metaphor here -- he who's on the ropes in a way, physically on the ropes. and in other ways not quite the osama bin laden of the public imagination. did it surprise you after doing all your research, and, you know, where you're talking to
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people who bin laden is, did it surprise you that, oh, wow, this is really the bin laden that is populating my book? >> well, what surprised the hell out of me was where he was. and i think with the, with the exception of the people who had held a very closely-held secret of where he was, everybody thought he was in, you know, western pakistan. everybody. i mean, a few people voted for yemen, but what i thought about it, i thought pakistan had to be right for all sorts of reasons. and my book lays out some of the conditions; the close link between the isi and jihadist groups, the longtime associations between al-qaeda personnel and leaders and the isi and their associations between and among the isi and the other terrorist groups. um, he pretty much had to be in
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pakistan, and he couldn't not be there without the knowledge and indulgence and help of someone. i'm not saying, you know, the pakistani security establishment is a monolith, but i would certainly say some people. and other people didn't want to know. i mean, you have to think that for pakistan -- and this is sort of hard to get your mind around if you're american -- you know, giving up bin laden's not all that popular a thing to do, you know? the united states is not beloved in pakistan. and so turning over bin laden would not be an easy decision for the pakistani security establishment to make. which is why, of course, we didn't tell them that we were going in. because we, we were worried that the whole, they'd give up the game. >> a reminder to our audience, we're talking with best-selling author richard north patterson
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about his novel, "the devil's light." there's a question from the audience about whether you knew obama was going to run when you wrote that book. >> no, i didn't. but i had a very interesting experience, and, in fact, i'll tell a story on myself which is why i'm not in the political consulting business. [laughter] in 2004 my wife nancy and i were at the democratic convention in boston because i was doing research for the race. and obama had just given his electrifying convention speech, and his name was on everyone's lips. and i ran into someone i knew and who was with the obama campaign, and he said you want to meet barack obama? barack obama would like to meet you. i said, well, that's very cool. sure. can i bring my then-friend nancy? yep, fine. so we sit down with then-state
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senator obama, remarkably enough, and we have about a 40-minute conversation. and i wasn't surprised that he knew a lot about the things i was concerned about because they were the things that a politician would know about. but nancy, who's an educational consultant, does a lot of work overseas, got into conversation with him about the problems of education in the third world, and he knew a lot about that. and what was most interesting was being in his presence because i've known the last four presidents. i've known a lot of folks in politics. and what you really appreciate is that he listens. he really takes stuff in. you know, he turns around, we were having an actual conversation. he wasn't doing an info dump of the five minutes he knew about this. you know, and you can understand why these folks have to sort of store up, you know, a lot of knowledge that -- but only go so
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deep because they've got so much stuff to think about and deal with. but he was remarkable, and his whole aura was so interesting. i came out, and i said to nancy, you know, that may be the sanest politician i've ever met. there's no way he's going to drink the kool-aid and run in 2008. [laughter] so, you know, obviously, the business of race and race in america and race as a factor in the politics was on my mind. he certainly raised that as a potential national figure. and whereas he wasn't the reason i wrote about the race, he certainly was somebody i thought about while i was writing it. >> any chance you'll do a follow-up novel, as it were, with obama as a character? or -- >> well, you know, the problem with doing that is you really are constrained by the facts. and as much as i do research, i really do like to make stuff up. [laughter] you know? so, yeah. he's going to have to get along
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with having, like, one life rather than two, i think. he's doing fine. >> well, were you tempted to put him in "the devil's light"? he's not really in the book. >> you want to hear something terrible? >> sure. >> um, you know, and i always worry with any american president about what's going to happen to them. i really do. and, you know, i tried to write around the osama problem by showing him in 2009 and 2010, okay? but there are a lot of guns out there, and it worries me deeply. and the influence of the gun lobby in protecting the rights of legitimate gun other thans is one thing, but when people who are adjudicated felons or people who are convicted of domestic violence or people who are, who have been admitted to mental
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institutions are allowed to acquire gunses, then there's something -- guns, then there's something deeply wrong. so i thought about that. and my editor, in fact, asked me about that. and i just said we're going to have a generic president here. it saddens me to say that, but, um, that's why. >> okay. well, so you said you've known the last four presidents, so that includes obama, of course, but also, obviously, george w. bush. um, was there any -- did you and he talk about literature, about perhaps, you know -- [laughter] having his political life thrown into the pages of fiction? >> yeah, well, i should say that i knew his dad rather better and knew the second president bush through him. you know, we -- there are enough
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differences in points of view on some issues that i don't know that it would have been very useful to sort of go there. he was always great fun to be around. you know, he's a lively guy. you know he's in the room. and you can see why he succeeded as a politician. but, no, we never talked about, we never talked about this stuff. you know, he and his dad are notably different personalities, and they're both interesting in their own way. >> given your interest in the world, and i mentioned at the outset that you were a former head, essentially, of common cause and the fact that you, you know, you write about a lot of different subjects, do you have, you know, after, for example, researching subjects do you want to go out this and, essentially, tell people -- as i guess you're doing with this book -- listen, this is how the world really is. we need to, you know, get off
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our duffs and change this, you know, about the u.s. government, this about our foreign policy, or is it kind of exasperating to stay in that fiction world? >> well, you know, i do give speeches, and i do hope my books will have some impact, and i do get letters. i got, oh, by a factor of 10 to 1 more letters about "exile," and people telling me thank you for saying it, you've really caused me to look at this conflict in a more nuanced way, which i deeply appreciate. that said, i've written about a number of problems, and they've all gotten worse, i think. [laughter] so, you know, i do have some sense of my own limitations. i mean, i can't say the bitterness over abortion's over, i can't say that gun violence has gotten better, capital punishment is still a morass, you know? it's been four years since i wrote, since "exile" was published, middle east peace between the israelis and
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palestinians has yet to arrive. so i may be the literary equivalent of what i am to a friend who invites me to giants' games to sit in his box, and every time i do, they lose. [laughter] but, yeah, maybe i have a passion for hard issues. >> and are you ever tempted, i know this is really something that's a no-no for writers, but are you ever tempted to revisit your novels and say, you know what? i really didn't like that ending, relate me sort -- let me sort of twist that a little bit and put out a 2.0 version. >> you know, i have, really, i just sort of don't second guess myself. i make the book as strong a book as i can. i rewrite a lot, i rethink a lot. and then at some point you just have to let it go and move on. the one thing i did, because i had -- my first novel was published in the '79, and then
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my first hit novel was '83. i went and looked at it, and i realized i was a different guy in '93 than i was in '79. i'll give you one cringe-making example. there's a sentence that i was dating a couple of girls that i didn't want to see. well, the girls thing really struck me wrong when i was reading it in '93. i thought, my god, you know, that was lame. [laughter] and so i went back and excised a few things. but, i mean, i think, you know, having had a more or less fully-formed consciousness somewhere after that, i would have committed some more errors. >> are there summits, you -- subjects, you mentioned you've written about a lot of subjects, are there subjects that you'd love to tackle, but in a sense you're afraid to go there because it's somehow too charged, too something, you just want to stay clear? maybe other novelists have done
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the deed already? >> you know, i think by the time you've written about partial birth abortion in israel/palestine, you've done about as bad as you could do. i don't know if i could find anything worse than those even if i tried. a book i thought about doing, and i don't think i'm ever going to do, i was thinking about doing something related to afghanistan, but, i mean, i honestly thought other than the peril of booting around afghanistan in your late middle age that everything that could be said about afghanistan, you know, probably has been said and long ago. unless i really thought i could bring something novel to it, probably best to do something else. but that was more a decision of feeling that i was superfluous. oddly enough, i didn't want feel in the israeli/palestinian context that i was, and i don't think that i have been. i mean, people still ask me to speak about that. or to write about it. so, um, you just have to pick your spots. >> pick your spots, exactly.
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and the middle east and, really, the world at large after 9/11 is a big spot to pick. were there parts about this book that you actually had originally included, for example, i don't know, maybe something about u.s. politics that you ended up excising from the book? or was there -- >> you know, there's a lot that i deal with in this book. and i could have dealt with the impact of a threat by al-qaeda to destroy a major western city which is one of the plot points in the book by how that affected the u.s. political scene. and i chose not to do much of that because i really wanted to keep the focus on the story at handment -- at hand, and keep it driving forward. you know, given the current, um, rekrill that story, dishonest, poisonous and utterly unhelpful
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political dialogue that we have in this country, you know, i can well imagine that if there's a potential act of nuclear terrorism that the finger pointing and potential scapegoating would pick up right away. i've got to say that even faced with all sorts of national peril, you know, like a deficit we obviously have to do something about, the intellectual dishonesty and self-serving quality of our political leaders really is quite special. [laughter] >> well, we'll break for the applause from the audience. [laughter] and, of course, you would know more than the average person because of your doings, personal doings with political figures who tell you perhaps offhandedly, off the record who's what i really think. >> i only hang out with the nice ones. [laughter] >> okay. um, but yet, you know, these
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conversations you have with politicians and others do find their way in the book in indirect ways perhaps, and let me read something to people that one of your characters says in "the devil's light." this is carter gray, a major u.s. intelligence figure who says early on, quote, america as a nation had no clue about what the hell this was about. most americans still don't. this is talking about the middle east and post-9/11 world. >> right. >> and brook chandler, the hero, shall we say, or perhaps not of the book says, as a nation we're addicted to wishful thinking, staggering from crisis to crisis with the foresight of a 2-year-old. after 9/11 we invaded the wrong country and too often used the wrong interrogation techniques on the wrong people all because our leaders lost contact with the truth. so, um, yeah. you are spreading the word there through your characters. >> it seemed fair enough.
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[laughter] yeah. i mean, and, certainly, those are feelings held by many people in the body politic, but you don't have to be a member of the national security community or an elected official to feel that way. i know a lot of americans feel that way. and, you know, you don't know where to turn. i think i also have them say that the neo-cons sit around a room and tell each other until the room becomes the world, and they really believe what they're saying is true. and the democrats are like manic depressives. in any given day you don't know what wing they're going to be in. and the tea party folks think the president's a worse threat than al-qaeda. [laughter] so, you know, i've got a lot to choose from. [laughter] but it's unfortunate that at a time when we're facing problems so serious, whether it's this one or the divisions in if our society -- in our society and the decline of our lower class
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and all the rest, that we don't have a more honest political dialogue among our leaders than i think we do. >> let's -- more applause. more applause. [applause] well, let's take a question from the audience. the question is, what do you think will happen to al-qaeda after osama bin laden's death? are they more or less dangerous? the you sort of answered that, but let's hear you -- >> i think in the short term they're more because they're going to be looking to establish their relevance whether it's directed by zawahiri or others. and they also seem to have a taste for the spectacular. you know, if they did what hamas did for a while in israel, they could be bombing shopping centers. but for some reason or another they have a passion for the big gesture. in a way the, quote, success,
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unquote, of 9/11 would be proved adick tiff to them. so -- addictive to them. so i think, certainly, in terms of their danger as a, um, as a terrorist threat, it's continuing. it's worse than it was after 9/11 because of osama's success in organizing. and i don't think you'll find anybody saying we can sort of relax now. the long run depends on a lot of things. it depends on whether we continue to support our counterterrorism efforts. when kerry was talking about that in 2004, he was dismissed by some of his critics as talking about police work. well, you can't invade terror. you have to detect and counteract terror. and it's very important that we have the capacity -- we don't have enough arab speakers in the cia, we don't have loss of things. -- lots of things. somebody told me there are less
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cia agents than meter maids in new york city. i wouldn't be surprised if that were true. so there's that. there's also the broader question of the middle east. i mean, how good or bad are things? i really do think the israeli/palestinian thing has to be fixed. i mean, that's really job one. you know, but more broadly there's questions for regional security for israel, there's what kind of societies we're going to have now in country like egypt. which are going through a change. i mean, there's an old saying, somewhat cynical saying about, you know, these emerging democracies; one man, one vote, one time. so, and anybody can hold an election once, but the question is whether you're building institutions that are going to make the vote meaningful. and, indeed, something that happens again. the muslim brotherhood, obviously, is very strong and well organized in egypt. you just don't know how that's going to go. to the extent that there is, the
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palestinians have a better life, to the extent that -- and this is a lot of ifs -- that hezbollah is absorbed into the body politic in lebanon rather than obsessing on israel, or that syria depending on what their government is like eventually decides to cut off arms from iran to hezbollah as part of a land for security deal, all those things do bear, ultimately, on how potent al-qaeda is. because the more anger, the more unemployment, the more, um, frustration there is among people in the middle east generally, the better they do. the better the middle east does, the worse they do. so how that's going to play out, you know, who knows? >> somewhere we have time, really, just for one more question. you know, your career has taken you a long way. at one point in your career you
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were the fcc's liaison to the watergate's special prosecutor. you mentioned howard hunt a little earlier at the start of this conversation, but you've seen a lot of things in your life that could be described as surreal, certainly nixon's time, watergate was surreal -- >> nixon himself was -- [laughter] >> nixon. well, that may lead us to the final question then. any similarities between nixon and bin laden? forget it. take that question back. >> well -- are we talking about charm? >> no, i mean, all joking aside, personality, the way it takes to get to the top of one's profession, duplicitous -- >> well, i think nixon was really a remarkable figure because he was the most unnatural politician i've ever seen. you've seen natural politicians. i mean, bill clinton's amazing. to watch him is just astounding. nixon had none of that. you could see the message from
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be his brain to his mouth, time to smile. [laughter] he just was completely uncomfortable in the his own skin. so in a way the remarkable determination he had to achieve not being a natural was really remarkable. the problem was that his demons and discomfort ate him up. it's quite possibly, it's quite possible. and, you know, i don't want to be juvenile, and this could come off wrong. but it's quite possible in certain ways that in bin laden if you ignore what it is that he wanted was a better integrated human being, you know? just in terms of someone who had self-awareness and sup. and such. on the level of fanaticism, as bad as watergate is, i mean, there's no way that it compares to really wanting to kill
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hundreds of thousands of people. but nixon was tragic as i think most people agree. he was a person of great gifts and great demons, and they ate him. in the end. >> thank you very much, richard north patterson, best-selling author of soon to be the 19th novel, 19 novels. the most recent, "the devil's light." we also thank our audiences here and on the internet, television ask radio. tonight's telecast is part of the good lit series underwritten by the bernard osher foundation. i'm jonathan curiel, and this meeting of the commonwealth of california, the place where you're in the know, is adjourned. [applause] >> jonathan, thank you very much. great. thank you. >> thank you. >> for more information on
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richard north patterson and his work, visit richardnorthpattersonbooks.com. >> carl elliot, what is your book about? >> um, it's about the way that medicine has changed as it's been transformed from a profession to a business, essentially. um, traditionally medicine has been largely a self-policed, honor-based profession, and over the past 30 years or so it has been, um, taken over by a range of market-based forces; the pharmaceutical industry, clinical trials industry, the medical education industry. a whole range of profit-based businesses which recalled the
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fact that medicine's traditionally self-regulated without a whole lot of oversight. >> okay. and what are the root causes of that? >> of the transformation? a lot of things. part of what i'm interested in the book is the emergence of the pharmaceutical industry as a huge force beginning largely in the 1990s. and that was the period in which the sort of age of blockbuster drugs began. so the drug companies started really hitting for the fences looking for drugs that they could market to as many people as possible, usual usually for mild, chronic illnesses. when the pharmaceutical industry started to become so enormously powerful, its influence over medicine began to grow much stronger. so you had the emergence of the clinical trials industry, the contract research industry,
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medical education industry, oversight, private research oversight businesses, institutional -- [inaudible] i think a lot of people don't realize exactly how profitable the pharmaceutical industry has been over the past 20 or 30 years. and it's, it's been tremendous. >> so what's your experience with that transformation and the role that the pharmaceutical industry currently, um, as a doctor? >> i don't practice medicinement i had originally trained in medicine, went from medicine to philosophy graduate school. so for the last to years or -- 20 years or so i've been teaching medical ethics and philosophy. the root of the book, um, begins with a phone call i got when i was at the university of minnesota from a local psychiatrist who wanted to sit in on a medical ethics course
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that i was teaching and explained to me that this was because he was being disciplined by the state licensing board for a problem with a research study that he was doing. his punishment was that he had to take the course in ethics, and be he wanted to sit in on my course. and not knowing any better i said, sure, and let him. and it went fine. a few years later a contract research business opened up in the twin cities where i live. a for-profit clinical trial site. and i had an interest in these and started doing some digging and looked to see who the researchers were doing clinical trials. and i saw that this guy who had taken my class was one of the researchers. so i started to think, i wonder exactly what he did to be disciplined by having to take my
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class. and it turned out that his license had been suspended for two years because he was responsible for the deaths and injuries of 46 different patients, a number of whom who had committed suicide and 17 of them who were in research studies that he had done. largely, um, seriously mentally ill patients, often with chronic schizophrenia, many of them suicidal who he was cycling in and out of research studies. often researches for which they weren't eligible and keeping them in the study even after they started to deteriorate. um, one of them, actually, had committed suicide in our teaching hospital at the university of minnesota. and, um, what struck me about that is that his disciplinary file wasn't hard to find. i could find it, you know, in minutes. to put his name in a google search, all his problems came up
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the very first hit, and yet despite the fact he had been judged responsible for the deaths and views of 46 patients -- injuries of 46 patients, he was still allowed to do trials, the fda didn't sanction him, and the pharmaceutical industry was still willing to hire him. he's still working for the industry now. and this sort of shocked me that a researcher this dangerous and this bad, um, was still allowed to do clinical trials. and it pointed to me just how weak our, um, oversight system is. >> during your research how often did you find that that was the case, that researchers who had violated earth thinks -- ethics laws were allowed to continue conducting research for a privately-contracted institution versus on a university campus? >> well, nobody really knows. that's, that's the difficulty. because there's no one keeping
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up with this information. the reason he was able to do this is simply that nobody was watching. and still nobody is watching. you know, you have state licensing boards, but they're not responsible for clinical research. you have local institutional review boards, these are the ethics committees that are supposed to be overseeing clinical research, but now these are largely private, for-profit boards paid by the sponsors of the research. and if they don't like the answers they get, they can simply go to another one and another one until they get the answer they want. the fda, which is supposed to be nominally interested in protecting summits of research -- subjects of research, only inspects about 1% of trial sites, so 99% of trial sites go uninspected. for that reason, i can't answer that question.